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Make Your Goals Count

December 24, 2009

The other day I discussed The Basics of Goal Setting, and how it’s important to set long- and short-term goals. I mentioned that there are three characteristics of short-term goals — they should be attainable, measurable, and behavior-oriented. What does all this mean? Read on to find out!

Attainable goals are those that are realistic and actually something you can achieve. If it’s not realistic, it won’t happen, and therefore it is not attainable.

For example, it is not realistic to say “I will never eat ice cream (insert your “trigger” food here) again” or “I will exercise 7 days a week” when you know that your lifestyle does not allow for this type of commitment.  Unrealistic goals like these will leave you feeling like a failure — certainly not how you want to feel. Instead, you can set attainable and realistic goals, such as “I will enjoy ice cream once a week or on special occasions,” or “I will exercise 4 days a week for 30 minutes each time.”

Measurable goals help you keep track of your progress. If you don’t specify the what, when, where, and how long for your goals you will have a vague statement that will leave you less committed to your goal.

For example, “I will exercise more” is an admirable goal, however it is vague and can easily be broken because who knows what that really means. On the other hand, if your goal is “I will walk on the treadmill 4 days a week for 30 minutes each, at 3.5 mph” you are more accountable and more likely to adhere to your plan because the goal is specific and measurable. (To be even more accountable, you can specify which four days you will do it — and put it in your calendar too!)

Behavior-Oriented goals that are within your control allow you to engage in healthy habits that are more natural and will not require an upheaval of your regular lifestyle. For example, a behavior-oriented goal is “I will get off the bus two stops early and walk the rest of the way to work” is a behavioral change that is within your control.

What are your attainable (and realistic), measurable (and specific), and behavior-oriented (and within your control) goals?

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